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Florida Supreme Court upholds 2015 decision: Personal injury noneconomic caps are unconstitutional

July 3, 2017

Florida’s 2005 tort reform legislation prescribed a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages (up to $1 million if the case involves certain catastrophic injuries) in medical malpractice personal injury and wrongful death claims.  The constitutionality of the statute was challenged in Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals two years ago in the case N. Broward Hosp. Dist. v. Kalitan, 174 So. 3d 403 (2015), and the court ruled then that the statutory cap on non-economic damages in personal injury cases was unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. [The Florida Supreme Court ruled in a separate 2014 case that the cap was unconstitutional as applied to wrongful death cases.]

On June 8, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s 2015 decision, effectively eliminating the non-economic cap provision of Florida’s tort reform legislation. 

So, what does this mean for Florida healthcare providers? 

Most forward looking medical professional liability carriers have been handling malpractice claims in Florida under the assumption that the non-economic caps were eliminated since the Florida Supreme Court first ruled on the issue in 2014.  Although the Florida Supreme Court decision earlier this month will likely not immediately change those carriers’ approach to defending claims, the eroding of successful tort reforms is making an impact. MagMutual, the 2nd largest insurer of physicians and hospitals in Florida, has seen an increase in both frequency and severity of medical malpractice claims since 2015.

Given the finality of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on non-economic caps, healthcare providers should reconsider the adequacy of their coverage limits. MagMutual can offer per-claim limits of $1,000,000 or more subject to underwriting approval.  We encourage you to contact your agent to review your policy, whether it be with MagMutual or elsewhere.

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